Baseball Economics: Current Research

By John Fizel; Elizabeth Gustafson et al. | Go to book overview

13
Positional Segregation in Major League Baseball: 1961-1990

Eric Eideand Daraius Irani


INTRODUCTION

Studies analyzing discrimination in major league baseball have found strong evidence that black and white players are segregated in the types of positions they play, with white players heavily represented at leadership positions such as pitcher and catcher and black players largely relegated to nonleadership positions such as outfield [ Pascal and Rapping ( 1972); Scully ( 1974b, 1989); Hill and Spellman ( 1984); Medoff ( 1986a); Christiano ( 1988)]. For example, Scully ( 1974b) found that in 1971, 62 percent of outfield positions were filled by blacks while only about 9 percent of pitchers were black. Medoff ( 1986a) found that in 1984, 70 percent of outfield positions were filled by black players, while blacks comprised only 13 percent of pitchers.

The overrepresentation or underrepresentation of black players relative to white players at each position is a type of occupational segregation specific to professional sports and is known as positional segregation. 1 The existence of positional segregation in major league baseball may be indicative of unequal treatment of equally able players based on the player's race, and hence it is deserving of closer examination. Further, some studies have suggested that players in leadership positions receive more endorsements during their careers and are also more likely to be coaches and managers after retiring [ Schneider and Eitzen ( 1986); Scully ( 1989)]. Black players may therefore be put at an earnings disadvantage both during and after their careers by being segregated into nonleadership positions.

In this chapter we identify annual positional segregation trends between black and white players in major league baseball from 1961 to 1990 and examine potential explanations for the trends. Our approach has two advantages over previous studies. First, the extensive time span of our data provides a more comprehensive view of positional segregation than currently is available and allows previous results based on selected years of data to be interpreted within

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